Game of Chance 

Five Courses for $10? Rack ’Em Up!

Before I salivate over the five-course, $10 happy-hour menu at the Uptown Billiards Club, I have an important confession to make: I'm a GENIUS at pool. A "one-time chancer," or hustler if you will, I just love the long shots.

Once, I pulled off nine eight-ball clearances in a row, and I can, and will, whip anybody's butt at it, including yours—as long as I'm on form. Said GENIUS is how I ripped the Mercury's arts editor a new one last month, right after he handed me a cue at the LaurelThirst and I asked him, "Is this game anything like snooker?" Guess what, Chas: We do have pool in England! I lied!

Phew. Now that my conscience is clear, I want to tell you what's so winning, in my eyes, about newly refurbished Uptown's sporting and culinary mix.

First, with summer drawing to a close, Uptown's old-fashioned walnut tables are the perfect surface on which to perfect your "indoor golf"—with felt so freshly brushed, you could strike a match on it... if the venue weren't non-smoking. Second, if you enjoy the thrill of this particular game as much as I do, you'll especially like the payoff that often comes with taking risks—which is where the food comes in.

Right at the tip of the risk/reward curve is where Uptown's Executive Chef Peter Greene presents the (meat-eating) pool player with his very best game: a truly killer happy-hour menu, which changes daily.

If you're willing to submit to the 24-hour turns of Greene's culinary whim—and, let's be honest, the obligatory rotations of his well-stocked larder—he'll reward you with great food at a quarter of what you'd pay elsewhere.

Last Wednesday, after an excellent Manhattan courtesy of Uptown's knowledgeable barkeep, I took the plunge, adding five wine pairings for $10 more. My first course, bacon-stuffed prawns, came with a glass of ruby-red Valpolicella and assuaged any concerns I had about being fobbed off with leftovers. The prawns were succulent, the bacon boisterous—a brave pairing, which left me wanting more.

Next, a baby Brie baked in filo pastry was served with chilled, roasted garlic and cranberry jam. The combination of hot, musky Brie and buttery pastry with the cool tartness of the organic garlic and cranberries blew my head off.

A risotto à la Barolo came third, made with rich, quality beef stock and the traditional Italian red wine, Barolo. Paired with a Californian Pinot Noir, I found this course as nutty and seductive as any risotto I've eaten, and I'm a big fan of the stuff—so that's saying something.

By this point, my head was reeling a little from all the booze, so I welcomed a fourth plate—braised buffalo on a bed of silky mash, which soaked up some of the vino. The buffalo—a new experience for me, and a tender, delicious one—embodied the positives of eating "blind." While it's something I've yet to risk $20 on at the farmers market, I got to try it here for a fraction of the price.

The meal's exclamation point was a single chocolate truffle, served on a toothpicked swirl of raspberry coulis. It was rich, handmade, and confidently flooring—just like my pool game.

$2 a course is un-turn-downable, in my book. So if you're feeling lucky, why not give it a shot?

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